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The Bridge at Siebenhauswrn

an iScot Story


Highland Light Infantry. The words conjure up lithe and lightly-armed young men blending into the colours and contours of the land as they creep noiselessly towards the unsuspecting enemy. At the last moment they rise as one, calling the fearsome slogan of their clan. The defenders panic, fire a wild and inaccurate volley, drop their weapons and take to their heels.

Sadly, the reality is better captured by the words ‘cannon fodder.’ In the course of the Jacobite risings the highland warrior was seen as a threat to the British state. A convenient solution to the problem was to make use of his bravery and fighting skills in places far from home, and in situations from which he was unlikely to return. General Wolfe’s comment – “No great mischief if they fall” – is well-known. The highlanders were regarded by the rulers of the British Empire in the same way as Indian troops: brave and expendable. In 1940 it was the highland regiments which were chosen to shield the fleeing British Army as it abandoned its French and Belgian allies to run for the beaches of Dunkirk. The highlanders sustained heavy casualties, and those who survived spent the rest of the war in German concentration camps.

My grandfather, Hector Darroch, served in a highland regiment in that war. He joined up in 1942, and since he was the manager of a small branch of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, he was considered officer material. His action began, after training in Scotland, in 1944 with the Normandy landings, and continued into the advance across Northern France and into Germany itself. He was by turns promoted Lieutenant, then Captain; and not being one of the toffs, that’s as high as he would ever be allowed to go.

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